“but I’m in so deep” – Infatuation, Relationships, and the Sufficiency of Christ, part 3
|“Now-here is my secret: I tell it to you with the openness of heart that I doubt I shall ever achieve again, so I pray that you are in a quiet room as you hear these words. My secret is that I need God – that I am sick and can no longer make it alone. I need God to help me give, because I no longer seem to be capable of giving; to help me be kind, as I no longer seem capable of kindness; to help me love, as I seem beyond being able to love.”
– Douglas Coupland
One night, after yet another one of our long, spiritually-driven hangout sessions, the girl I previously mentioned asked me if I would give her an hour of my time each day if she asked me to.
I didn’t even blink.
She didn’t either.
“3 hours,” she prompted.
She turned her face towards me and her eyes sparkled. Coming from anyone else this would have been a playful gesture, but with her, you have to remember, even the little things were different. Her look impressed the seriousness of her question upon me.
My heart was beating out of my chest. Where was she going with this?
“If I asked you to spend three hours a day with me, just talking with me and listening to me and getting to know me better…three hours every single day…would you do it?”
I thought about my answer. I thought about how special this girl was. Around her was freedom, the comfort to be myself, the power to put away all of my trepidation and hesitations and inconsistencies. Just being near her filled me with unnatural confidence and a renewed desire to follow through with all of my convictions. When she was looking at me, every fiber of my being stood on edge; when she smiled, I felt like I was going to collapse. I knew my answer.
The shocker was next.
“And I’m just some girl.”
She squared to face me and let nine words that I will never forget slip from her lips.
“God. You need to feel that way about Jesus.”
I’m not sure how sudden it was, but I felt something in my mind snap into place like a long-lost puzzle piece being welcomed home. Chemicals clicked, synapses fired, electrons danced their lightning dance: and I was struck with what might be called epiphany.
I would give three hours of my day each and every day to a girl I barely knew while keeping Jesus only in my periphery?
My hypocrisy struck me like a blow across the head. Jesus had been patiently waiting in the background of my life, for all my life, for me to come to my senses and put away these broken toys and come to the theme park. He Had been recklessly pursuing me for longer than I could ever have imagined, longing for me to return to the source of all true joy, the Author of all the borrowed beauty and essence and goodness that I was so attracted to.
And I realized it.
That’s what infatuation is, I think.
We catch a glimpse of the Divine in another human’s heart (even if they’re not a believer) and it pulls us in like mad and soon enough we find ourselves idealizing them in our heads, making them everything we think they should be.
Isn’t that it?
Whether your newest crush realizes it or not, they were made in the image of God. They still retain an incredible amount of His beauty, kindness, and light within them. Optimists tend to not lose sight of the fact that every human being, despite their brokenness, retains a dazzling spark of Eden within them.
That’s how beautiful God is, that even such an imperfect reflection of His beauty is what we are so drawn to in the ones that we go crazy about.
When we turn from the flecks of this power to the actual source, we begin to realize that Christ is sufficient to cure our infatuation. Focusing on His small manifestation of light in one particular person, it’s the difference between hiding in your room hoping your precious 30 watt will keep you from the darkness when you have access to a blazing sun lighting up the sky just outside.
It’s the difference between life and death.
It’s the difference between true love and brokenness.
I think it’s important to remind here that infatuation is just a symptom of a greater disease of the heart.
And Christ is sufficient to conquer the sick, half-baked longings of my twisted heart.
Earlier in the series, I talked about how infatuation leads to brokenness. Embracing your identity in Christ and placing Him where He deserves to reign leads to the opposite of that.
It leads to fulfillment. Christ is sufficient.
But maybe I should say transcendent. “Sufficient” implies he will only just barely manage to cure our infatuation. But that’s a lie. Christ is more than sufficient, He is overflowingly and impossibly transcendent if you invite Him to begin healing your life.
Let’s be clear: God is not interested in a cosmetic operation – this is cosmic, open-heart surgery we’re talking about here.
So be cautious. Maybe if you try really hard you can break out of this pattern of infatuation all on your own. That’s a lot safer than the alternative.
But Jesus doesn’t mean that you have to be perfect to come to Him, only that He will slowly make you into a perfect creature, into Himself, when you seek after Him hard.
Here’s my experience.
He will start by curing your infatuation. Yes, you’ll think, but then you will find that He is slowly giving you more patience, more love, more faith, more courage, and you’ll be fighting it the whole time because it hurts and it’s damned uncomfortable. Then, slowly, you’ll come to the realization that it is no longer your heart that beats inside your hollow chest, but His own.
You will begin to have access to the all-desired, real, self-sacrificing kind of love that Christ loved with.
Nobody has explained this process better than C.S. Lewis.
|“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: But He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself”
– C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
You don’t have to come to Him, but if you do, know that He demands perfection. He asks for everything. This is, by definition, a lot.
But He will give you everything. He will make you perfect.
He doesn’t just want your occasional thanks or trivial conversation, or to be your last resort in desperate times. He wants to be your everything, your most High. Take Him up on it. You will be glad you did.
And so there is to be no stone left unturned in our new fellowship with Christ. We cannot overlook certain aspects of our own character and sinful habits any longer, deceiving ourselves into believing that we can tolerate sin without it sooner or later corrupting our entirety and eventually giving birth to death. We cannot overlook even the most superficial, trivial relationships and attractions or they will soon bloom into the dark shades of obsessive infatuation I have been fighting all my life. We must bring all under Christ’s headship, under his dominion.
When I started to understand that Jesus, not “some girl,” desires and deserves the place of the “most important relationship in my life,” I began to surrender some of the worldly things I had built my life around.
Naturally, some sacrifices were easier than others. Investing my happiness in my family’s thoughts of me was one of the first to go. More difficult to give up were the plans I had made for my own education and future and near-impossible to let go was the conviction that this one incredible girl I just recently met was the woman I would one day marry.
“Surrendering” my desires to the Lord doesn’t necessarily mean I will not study social entrepreneurship, start an NGO after graduation, or one day dedicate my life to ending sex trafficking. It may be that these things are exactly what God desires for me. Surrender only means that I give everything up to His ultimate control and that I let things go of the things He asks me to, trusting that it is for my good. C.S. Lewis once wisely observed that “nothing you have not given away will ever really be yours.”
So be brave enough to bring all under the Lord’s control.
I wish I’d mentioned this earlier in the series, but the sister, she has this metaphor she uses whenever people talk about falling in love. She says falling head over heels enamorado is carving someone else’s name on your heart. It’s their name. But it’s still your heart.
I’d like to add something to this metaphor: if you call upon the name of Christ, it’s not your heart you are playing about with anymore: it’s His. Don’t be too quick to impress another soul upon your new heart, no matter how brilliant an idea it may seem at the time. Guard your remade heart against infatuation. It’s for our good.
Because when God says “don’t,” he really means “don’t hurt yourself.”
When God says “Ryan, don’t give your heart away to this girl,” He is not telling me to deprive myself happiness. He is telling me to ensure both of our protection. He is telling me that I need to grow so much more and learn to keep my heart guarded so much better until the day He finally reveals to me my true love.
And, as one of His children, He will keep pulling me more and more into fellowship and perfection with Him; in fact, He will not stop tugging and yanking and cutting apart my sick heart until the day I die.
So I’m challenging you right now. If this series has convicted you at all, if you can almost feel the Lord pressing Himself gently against your hard, calloused heart, if you know you are lost and cannot “do love right” without Him anymore, come back to Him. Consciously choose to grow more dependent on Him every day. Make a real effort to break out of your addictions. He will honor your effort and forgive your inevitable stumbles. Fall down on your face if you need to, beg Him to save you from yourself. He will respond. The healing may take a while, but be faithful. He will deliver you.
I was finally able to surrender this obsession to the Lord when He pressed it on my mind one night of quiet time during summer project.
“Give this girl up, Ryan.”
“But Lord, she’s so amazing,” I kept begging, “please give her to me, I know I’ll never find another like her.”
He didn’t cut me off. Patient, like my father, he waited until I was finished. Then He spoke to me once more.
“I have something better for you,” I heard Him say.
His voice held a smile.